(An alternative title for this entry could be, ‘If I go looking for problems, I’m bound to find some’.)
I’ve been having an interesting debate with somebody who is kind enough to follow my tweets and even better, offer me some robust and valuable feedback.
This one follows on from the ‘know your councillor’ leaflet discussion, but goes on to look at how proactive elected members should be when it comes to seeking out local issues.
I agree completely with the point being made about the visibility, or rather invisibility, of local councillors. However, that view is based more on being a local taxpayer, rather than a local councillor. As a local councillor, I’ve come to realise just how difficult it is to make, let alone keep, people aware of who you are and what you do.
Local elections are probably the only times sitting councillors actively communicate with every household in their ward. From experience, even having delivered at least three leaflets in a relatively short space of time, plus a post election thank you card, you still meet people who haven’t got a clue who you are, or what you do. I’m not suggesting that this is their fault, just that it demonstrates how challenging it is to make yourself known to people who are busy living their lives.
It’s also my experience that, unless it has a theme that people engage with, holding a public meeting is not particularly effective. Even though we deliver flyers to every household and put up posters, on average, 80 or so people attended our public meetings. On only one occasion, did we achieve a level of response that saw people being turned away, because the school hall we were using wasn’t big enough.
Even if I had the time, would I go door to door, introducing myself to every householder and asking them if they had any problems I could help with? To be completely honest, probably not. Providing I make myself available, give people my contact information in various formats on a regular basis, via leafleting and, as I have done three times in the last year or so, arrange public meetings, then I think I’m doing as much as I personally can.
Armed with my contact details and an invitation to contact me if they need help, whatever the issue, then I think it not unreasonable to expect people to meet me half way and get in touch if they think I can help. You might not agree with me and of course that’s your right, that’s politics.